Charter, NBCUniversal Extend Contract Talks to Avoid Blackout

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The two sides have been at an impasse for days ahead of a midnight Dec. 31 deadline. A dispute would have put all of NBCUniversal's programming, including E! and Bravo, into a blackout for Charter's 16 million subscribers nationwide.

Happy New Year, Charter cable customers. You’ll be able to watch Sunday’s big game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on NBC — and likely any other of the network’s programming, including Monday’s Tournament of Roses Parade or the hit show This Is Us.

Charter Spectrum and NBCUniversal have extended contract negotiations to keep those programs on the air — at least for now. NBC on Saturday announced that the two sides will continue their talks amid a midnight deadline.

“Negotiations with Charter Spectrum for the NBCUniversal portfolio of networks have been extended,” according to a message on DeliverMyShows.com, a website created by NBCUniversal to inform subscribers about the talks. “Thank you for your support.”

Charter declined to comment.

The cable giant has at least temporarily averted the chance that NBC and its affiliated networks would be plunged into a blackout due to a long-running contract dispute with Charter Communications. Both sides have failed to agree on a carriage agreement that would keep those channels on Charter’s Spectrum pay-TV service, impacting some 16 million subscribers nationwide.

Charter and NBCUniversal, owned by cable giant Comcast, have been in talks over pricing for months and were said to be at an impasse Saturday afternoon as negotiators raced toward a midnight deadline. The lack of an agreement would have yanked NBC and its affiliates from Charter.

The dispute has centered on proposed price hikes for NBC channels, which include Bravo, Telemundo, MSNBC and others. Charter has opposed any steep price increases, according to people familiar with the talks.

NBCUniversal has been pushing to increase its programming fees during the past five years as the network has grown since Comcast acquired full control from General Electric. The acquisition included a vast expansion of NBC channels that now includes juggernauts like E!, Syfy, USA, CNBC and Oxygen.

The last time NBC hammered out a deal was six years ago when the NBC broadcast network was languishing in fourth place and had less bargaining power compared to CBS, Fox and Disney’s ABC network (which also includes ESPN and the Disney Channel).

For Charter, squeezing a better deal with NBCUniversal comes after a costly year. The nation’s No. 2 cable provider this year spent $65.5 billion to acquire rivals Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Comcast is still the nation’s largest pay-TV provider with 29 million customers.

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